Historic house holds spicy tales by fdh56iuoui


									Thursday, July 28, 2005

Historic house holds spicy tales
Early resident
was bigamist
with two names
For the Star-Ledger

   When Jack Gordon bought the
historic Bond Force House in Rose-
land six years ago, he and his family
knew nothing about the people who
lived there long ago.
   Gordon took pride in restoring
the home, parts of which date back
to 1760, filling it with period-ap-
propriate antiques and taking even
more drastic steps to be historically
accurate. When the dining room
needed painting, Gordon took a
sample from the wall to a historic                                                           JIM WRIGHT FOR THE STAR-LEDGER
paint company, which analyzed it        Lawyer and filmmaker Jack Gordon stnads in fron tof his home, 1760 Bond Force
                                        House in Roseland. Gordon, who made a documentary about one of the house’s
like the rings on a tree, identifying   earliest residents says, “As silly as it sounds I feel like there are spirits about.”
the oldest shade.
   But when the history and film-       vinced a local church to dedicate a         thought of so highly, but be such a
making buff took on a documenta-        stained-glass window in his mem-            cad,” Gordon said.
ry film project as a hobby in 2002,     ory after he died. He also found a             Gordon, a 45-year-old law-
he started to hear strange stories      Johnathan Force in Roseland (then           yer working in Manhattan, spent
from local seniors about one of the     called Centerville) who had a lack-         $75,000 of his own money to cre-
house’s earliest residents -- Johna-    luster life before marrying his Civil       ate a one-hour documentary about
than Force III. The rumor was that      War buddy’s sister -- the homeliest         the man, called “The Bond Force
Force was a bigamist who shocked        daughter of the wealthy Bond fam-           Legacy.” Sales of the DVD, priced
the community after abandoning his      ily. That Johnathan Force sired two         at $14.99, will benefit the Roseland
sickly wife and two small children      children, but then seemed to vanish         Centennial Celebration fund for the
to marry a woman 20 years his ju-       from local records.                         2008 event. So far, Gordon said, he
nior from the next town.                   Comparing church ledgers, Gor-           has sold about 400 copies.
   Intrigued, Gordon started re-        don discovered they were indeed                “I have zero aspirations of break-
searching. He found evidence of a       the same man.                               ing even,” admitted Gordon, who
Johnathan Force in Livingston who          “The more I learned about this           said about 10 percent of the film
had been such a valued member of        character, it struck me that it was         was paid for by corporate sponsors
the community that his widow con-       so ironic that this guy could be            suc as the Provident Bank Founda-
tion and by local historical groups.
   Robert Bush, who founded the
Roseland Historical Society and
was interviewed in the film, said
Gordon was able to reveal a fasci-
nating and practically secret tale
about the town.
   “Very few people are interested
in history,” he said. “Hopefully this
will stimulate people’s interest and
get them thinking.”
   To make the film, Gordon pored
through local newspapers, court re-
cords, and business and church led-
gers. The film uses a PBS-style nar-
rator and features interviews with
senior citizens who recall stories of
the Bond and Force families. There
are shots of many old photographs       A 1910 photo shows one of the house’s previous owners, Annie Force, riding a sleigh.
and documents, but ironically, Gor-
don said he never found one of          communicated from the Baptist              keeper, and the siblings took in
Force himself.                          church.                                    boarders for the summer months.
   Making the film was a family af-        Just four months after he was cast         Frank later married a woman
fair. Much of the editing was done      out, Dorinda died “mysteriously,”          named Irene White, but their rela-
in Gordon’s home office, and his        Gordon said, allowing Force to re-         tionship failed within a year, spark-
wife, Anna, and work colleagues         enter society, and he eventually be-       ing a bitter divorce trial that was
do voice-overs. In a sepia-toned re-    came a church leader. Gordon said          covered in local papers. At one point,
enactment scene, Gordon’s daugh-        he believes Force had something            Irene claimed Frank and Anna were
ter, Alexandra, plays the home-         to do with his wife’s death, but the       trying to oust her from the family by
wrecking second wife. The college       money he got from her family al-           locking her in an unheated portion
sophomore said she was game to          lowed him to “buy his good name.”          of the house -- the space Gordon
take on the role because her dad           “People with money tend                 and his family now use as a kitchen
was so excited about the project.       to be forgiven,” he said.                  and dining room. At another point,
   “It was interesting to see              Force never re-established contact      Frank and one of Irene’s sons got
how the story developed,” she           with his children, Anna and Frank,         into a fistfight on the front lawn.
said. “He’d come home and               from his first wife, and the siblings         Gordon       said    every     old
say, ‘Guess what I found out!’’’        became scandalous in their own             house has character, but his
   Many elements of the Bond            right. The two had a relationship that     has particularly active ghosts.
Force story could be ripped from        bordered on “incestuous,” Gordon              “I feel like there’s a very warm
today’s tabloids. Force had met         said, as local townspeople all as-         presence in the house,” said Gor-
the woman who would become his          sumed they were husband and wife.          don. “As silly as it sounds, I
second wife, Susan Amanda Bak-             The siblings had no money of            feel like there are spirits about.”
er, while shopping for medicine         their own, so they used a hodge-
for his ailing first wife, Dorinda.     podge of ways to make ends meet.
   When he left Dorinda, he presum-     Frank worked as a dog catcher                For more information or to pur-
ably took her sizable dowry with        and tried to convince others that          chase copies of the DVD, go to
him. He was discov-ered as a biga-      dog skins could be used as cloth-          www.TheBondForceLegacy.com
mist six months later and was ex-       ing or blankets. He was a bee-

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